MusiCB3: What has your road to librarianship been?
Anna Pensaert: As a teenager I wanted to become a scientist and do research. Once I had realised this was not going to happen, I took a U-turn and decided to study musicology, but without any idea what I would do with it professionally. Some teaching probably…
I enrolled at the University of Leuven but also spent one year in Berlin on an Erasmus exchange. Both musicology programmes were excellent, although very different, and it was great to have the opportunity to experience both.
One of the defining moments actually happened during my first month in my first year in Leuven, when we were all marched to the library for a very hands-on (and with hindsight absolutely brilliant) music bibliography course. Although I had used libraries before, it made me realise for the first time how important they are and I became interested in how they worked. So I decided to do a postgraduate course in order to become a proper librarian. Teaching? Me?
Before working at the Pendlebury Library and University Library Music Department, where have you been?
AP: During my library studies, I undertook a short work experience project at the music department of the Royal Library of Belgium. After I graduated I started working in CeBeDeM (Belgian Centre for Music Documentation). Entering shelf marks was done, believe it or not, using pen and inkpot, but we also had brand new Macs available. Although the procedures may have been surprising, the collections were really good and it was an excellent experience to work in an environment that not only had a library full of manuscripts but also dealt with publishing and the promotion of Belgian contemporary music.
After that I became the librarian at the Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp. It’s an absolutely amazing library, embedded in a very active conservatoire, linked to a fabulous concert venue. The collections are very good: borrowable books, sheet music and orchestral sets as well as rare printed books and music, manuscript collections, concert programme collections… Apart from the day-to-day running and managing of the library and its team with all that entailed (i.e. everything you can possibly think of), I became involved in societies such as the Study Centre for Flemish Music.
It was a very diverse and challenging post which prepared me very well for the next step: Cambridge. After 6 and a bit years as Pendlebury Librarian I was given the opportunity to become Head of Music Collections at both the Pendlebury and the UL Music department and that is where I currently am.
What do you like most about the University Library and Pendlebury Library Music Collections?
AP: At the Pendlebury I like the way the collections have been developed to meet the exact needs of the Faculty. It’s great to work with a research collection that is practical, yet also rich and diverse. I also like the balance between the different formats: sound, microfilm, print, digital…
At the UL it’s the sheer depth, variety and extend of the collections; knowing that when you open a box of sheet music or bound volume there is likely to be something in it you may never have seen before. There are also the archival collections with unique materials and the pleasure it brings to work with such a fascinating part of British heritage.
Do you read any foreign languages?
AP: Yes. I read and speak Dutch (native language). I read German and, depending on the subject, I’m also happy reading French and Italian. I can decipher some Latin, but not confidently.
What do you like about working in Cambridge most?
AP: It’s a librarian’s paradise. Wherever you go you come across yet another library with fascinating collections and unique services.
Best day at work?
AP: Any day where I go home with a sense of achievement is definitely good. I love the diversity of my job so my ideal day would be a nicely balanced one that involves interacting with people, working with collections and getting through a decent amount of administration as well.
Worst day at work?
AP: Possibly in my first job when I put my very first stamp in a printed score upside down and had some first-hand experience of how not to manage staff (by being at the receiving end).
What is/are your most favourite composer(s)/type(s) of musics?
AP: Lassus, Brahms, Stravinsky, Ligeti. One of my favourite live performances was Günter Wand conducting Bruckner. Experiencing the Turangalila for the first time from a cheap podium seat right behind the percussion section was also rather interesting. At home however, I always drift towards chamber or piano music.
Where did you live before moving to the region?
AP: Antwerp. A very good place to live.
What is/are your instrument(s)?
AP: I used to play the piano (for pleasure – I’m afraid there was no practical musicianship involved in my musicology course). Unfortunately I’ve had to give it up, although I still enjoy things like accompanying my five-year old on her violin.
Any hidden talents?
AP: Absolutely. What they are rather depends on who’s asking…
Anna Pensaert has been working at the Pendlebury Library of Music since 2004 and at the Cambridge University Library Music Department since 2010.